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Play and Child Development

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

As many people are now aware, recess and physical education in schools have been greatly reduced in recent years to the detriment of children. Play is an important part of human development and can teach children important skills that they can carry into adulthood. Many of the developmental milestones of school-age children can be accomplished through play and interacting with peers. With more research and more acceptance of this need, I am hopeful that more schools will increase the amount of time school-age children have in their daily schedule for play.

Once children reach elementary school, they have gained stronger and smoother gross motor skills, such as running or standing. They also continue to develop their fine motor skills, which include skills such as grasping or holding small objects. Activities on the playground can help further develop and strengthen these skills. They can participate more regularly in some of these activities and develop mastery over their skills. In addition to developing these physical skills, children at this age require a minimum of one hour of physical activity every day.

Academic achievement is a major focus for school-age children. In early elementary school, children’s curriculum focuses on learning the fundamentals. Around third grade, the curriculum evolves to focus more on finding content in the material presented to them. In addition to these important academic milestones, children begin to increase their ability to focus for longer periods; however, many children need active breaks between long periods of focused attention. By age 6, children should be able to focus for up to 15 minutes at a time. Having a shorter attention span at this age points to the fact that they should be moving around more and physically interacting with their environment. Their brains are not developed enough at this age to focus on something uninterrupted for longer periods. By age 9, children are able to focus for up to an hour but still need play breaks throughout their school day as well.

Another reason to increase play is to help children further develop the social skills required for developing close peer relationships and learning about societal norms and expectations. At this age, children are also likely to test these expectations and may start lying, cheating or stealing. Learning the rules of our society on the playground at this age will be a much safer place to learn the consequences of these actions, instead of learning them as an adult when the consequences are much harsher and more serious. Children need to gain feedback from peers and this can happen more readily on a playground at school.

Most importantly, mixing active play into a person’s day has also shown to increase productivity, even in adults. A recent study has shown that playing a collaborative game can increase productivity by 20 percent. The reasons for this include an increase in creativity, encouraging teamwork, teaching individuals how to set common goals for all those involved, and helping people relax and “blow of steam.” Play has many benefits that will carry into adulthood, such as increased learning capacity. For this reason, play needs to continue to be a constant part of a child’s school day.


References

Brower, T. (3 March 2019). Boost Productivity 20%: The Surprising Power of Play. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2019/03/03/boost-productivity-20-the-surprising-power-of-play/#bffc7197c05b

School-age children development. (n.d.) In MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002017.htm

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Ways to Overcome Procrastination You Won’t Want to Put Off

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Procrastination is a problem dealt with daily by people of all ages. It can be said that many of us have been through at least one period when we did not manage our time well. Recent studies have shown that roughly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are chronic procrastinators (Cherry).

There are many reasons why the number is high, but also just as many ways to help us manage our time more effectively, which we’ll explore below.

Deeper mental health issues may contribute to poor time management. Depression, ADHD, OCD, and chronic stress are all capable of worsening procrastination (Wiebe). These issues can work to shift the focus onto other tasks and activities, leaving important “to-dos” for a later time, which may or may not ever come.

Developing good time management skills has more benefits than the obvious boost in productivity. Cutting down on procrastination has also been shown to reduce stress significantly and can improve our overall quality of life (Mayberry).

Depending on the situation, talking with a therapist, or just taking a mental break, can reduce symptoms, such as stress and procrastination.

It is far easier to accomplish the tasks at hand with a clear mind. Keeping a planner or list of priorities, as well as evaluating our time usage, can help us stay organized and motivated (Mayberry).

Finally finishing a seemingly endless or daunting task typically gives us a great sense of relief and satisfaction. When time is well-spent and the “to-do list” shrinks, we experience fewer stressful thoughts that can put us on edge.

Putting into practice these time management skills can help us not only to finish tasks efficiently, but help us live a happier life.


References

Cherry, Kendra. “Psychology Behind Why We Wait Until the Last Minute to Do Things.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 30 June 2019, www.verywellmind.com/the-psychology-of-procrastination-2795944.

Mayberry, Matt. “Time Management Is Really Life Management.” Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur Media, Inc., 13 Feb. 2015, www.entrepreneur.com/article/242855.

Wiebe, Jamie. “Struggle with Time Management? Here’s What It Says About Your Mental Health…” Talkspace, Talkspace, 3 Oct. 2018, www.talkspace.com/blog/time-management-mental-health/.

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